What is a Kitchen Work Triangle?

University of Illinois 1940s Study


The kitchen work triangle is an architectural arrangement of the major appliances in the kitchen, intended to improve the efficiency of meal preparation. The arrangement is supposed to minimize the distance the cook has to move between major appliances while not feeling cramped. It is based on time study research done at the University of Illinois in the 1940s.

National Kitchen and Bath Association Definition

The National Kitchen and Bath Association defines the “work triangle” as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink/dishwasher, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. This is considered a useful design tool when planning to remodel a kitchen, especially when the kitchen is small by today’s standards.

Kitchen Work Triangle Concept Details

These are some more details of the kitchen work triangle concept:
A full-height obstacle, such as a tall cabinet, should not come between any two points of the triangle.
No side of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.
If possible, there should be no major traffic flow across the triangle.
Cabinets or other obstacles should not intersect any side of the triangle by more than 12 inches.
The sum of all three sides of the triangle should be between 13 feet and 26 feet.
If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.

Different Kitchen Design Concepts

A kitchen may be designed around a different concept if there are to be more major appliances in the kitchen, more workspaces, or it is envisioned that two people will often be doing the cooking at the same time — or if the kitchen is to be used for more than just cooking. It may be that space is to be included for entertaining, for children to do homework and parents to check e-mail, and for dining and watching television. In these cases, the kitchen designer may use multiple triangles or other design concepts.